On June 27th, the Ukrainian novelist Victoria Amelina was eating at the Ria Lounge in in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, when a Russian missile hit the popular pizza restaurant . The group she was with included a delegation of Columbians—a writer, a journalist, a politician. Victoria had put her career as a fiction writer on hold and turned to the urgencies around her, researching Russian war crimes for the group Truth Hounds and writing a book of nonfiction called Looking at Women Looking at War. She was doing that work when she was critically injured, and she died four days later, on July 1st.
Victoria lived for a time in metro Boston, but it was at a PEN event in New York City that our founder, Askold Melnyczuk, first met her. They became friends; she contributed to Arrowsmith, the journal of Askold’s Arrowsmith Press; and they co-taught creative writing to Ukrainian students online, in affiliation with Iowa’s International Writing Program.
One month to the day after Russia set off the current phase of its war by attacking Ukraine on February 24th, 2022, the Goethe-Institut Boston hosted a hybrid reading in support of Ukraine, All That We have Is A Voice: Writers from Ukraine Speaking to Writers in Boston. Spearheaded by Askold, the event allowed a broad English-speaking audience to hear from several Ukrainian writers, and gave those writers an important chance to be heard and seen when many had been displaced or were under siege.
In haste, the resulting video was posted online without having its opening moments trimmed away, and now the footage feels precious. From 0:17 to 0:52, we see Victoria looking into her camera, calmly awaiting the formal start. And later, of course, we hear from her. From 10:55 to 16:26, she reads from her “new unfinished novel about the war.” The video captures her at the end also, clapping at 1:44:57 before the camera pans across the audience in Boston. Her request that we “stay with Ukraine, not for a day, not for a week, not for a month, because I think the fight will be long” has lost none of its power or relevance.
Please also see Victoria, along with her colleague Roman Avramenko of Truth Hounds, in conversation with Jacki Lyden and Christopher Merrill as part of Askold Melnyczuk’s video series For the Record: Conversations with Ukrainian Writers.
On September 30th, Brookline Booksmith, Victoria’s favorite bookstore during her years in Massachusetts, hosted a memorial for her, led again by her friend and our founder, Askold.